Today marks the anniversary of what we have come to call “The Attacks of 9/11.” For myself, I almost always forget that this date is some sort of holiday in the U.S. until I notice Boy Scouts putting flags in lawns and people flying flags at half mast. This year I had some warning due to my high school student’s current event with a historical connection assignment. She had wanted to talk about the new findings in the Jack the Ripper case. Her teacher told her no, that it wasn’t historical. (?) and insisted on her covering something from 9/11. I was oppositionally resigned. I wanted my young one to do their report on whatsoever they damn well pleased. However, I get it that 9/11 is still and likely always will be a BIG deal for a lot of people in our country.
Who am I kidding? The actual occurrence was a BIG deal for me. I can remember getting in my car to leave for the morning school drop and hearing the report on the local rock station as delivered by Mark and Brian. Where usually there was comedy in the morning, all of a sudden there wasn’t.
Funny enough, my first thought was: “I need to pick up a newspaper and save it.” This stems from the hours I spent as a child pouring over the newspapers my Grandmother had saved from the Great Depression and WWII era. They had been intriguing and invaluable to me. I didn’t end up picking up a newspaper. Part of me wishes that I had. But people don’t chronicle things the same way today as they did before. My Grandparents had huge scrapbooks of newspaper articles and pictures of them on or around the day the events occurred. Poetry and letters from loved ones. I don’t do that. Mostly because I haven’t the patience to sit around cutting and pasting but also because Scrapbooking in its current state is ridiculous pseudo-art for bored mommies.
I remember getting home and calling my partner who hadn’t yet heard. Being a counselor, he was spending the day in quiet rooms with people. It was his decision and a good one at that to go pick up all of our school aged young ones. No learning was going to happen that day and we wanted our family to receive information at a pace and mood that we controlled. The media was already saturated. After about half an hour of no new information and the same disturbing reels playing in a loop I turned off the television. It was pivotal point for our family. It was the moment we all stopped watching news on television altogether. I still don’t get my news from television. The medium of twenty four hour news is designed to keep us upset, in a state of unknowing and fear.
I felt helpless. It was a moment when I wanted to help, but really what could someone in California with no skills in search and rescue or funds do? I turned my mind to working on something I could do. I stacked wood. We had just split 5 cords of wood and it all needed stacking and I stacked wood for the rest of the week. It was a great lesson to me, turning my mind to something I could impact. Letting everything else go; I use this lesson everyday now.
This year, as I look back at the events of 2001 I am incredibly saddened by where we as a nation allowed ourselves to go. I had such hopes that at least this tragedy would teach us some lessons. Lessons like, we are not invincible and unreachable. We should be looking out for one another and coming together.
Instead, we as a nation rushed to war. With sadness I watched as no dissension occurred in our Congress over taking military action. Nobody wanted to wait and see or better yet, defeat the whole purpose of terrorism by not reacting to it. We appeared then and today still as extremely egocentric as a country. Other countries have been dealing with terrorism for quite some time now. We, feeling protected by our isolation were shocked that what the rest of the world already had a handle on responding to, felt some sort of deep affront that it should happen to us. How dare they? In the time since that day it seems we have learned no lessons regarding our behavior.
If anything we as a nation have become worse. Racism, which seemed like it was on the decline, has jumped exponentially since 9/11. It extends to everyone of brown skin. People of colour, no matter what their race are immediately more suspect than Caucasians. This profiling is out of control. And yet, most of our most dangerous and terrifying killers have in fact been Caucasian.
We fear our national neighbors more than ever. But mostly our brown neighbors, Canada is still A-Okay with us. We have gotten ridiculously vigilant at the border. We daily and weekly see stories of terrifying disease and infection that we blame on our Mexican neighbors and we seemingly make no distinction in all the other South Americans who also cross the same border. If they come from Mexico to the wide audience, they are Mexican.
We have also handed over control of our lives to a police state. With the Patriot Act, we gave permission for the commander in chief and Homeland Security to do whatsoever he likes with whomsoever he likes. Things like warrants and due process and Miranda rights.
Furthermore, as has been shown this year, our state and local police force can hurt, maim, humiliate and otherwise harry citizens with no fear of being reprimanded much less losing their job. Cecily Macmillan, an Occupy Protester was found guilty of assault and sentenced to prison for having a seizure. (Police officer claiming assault). While she is far from the only person abused and blamed her high profile case and refusal to plead guilty to lesser charges put this situation squarely in the public eye.
We are afraid. We are so afraid of anything and anyone different that we are willing to go to other countries and kill those who make us afraid. President Barack Obama, the man who in his campaigning stated he would pull us out of Afghanistan and Iraq, just yesterday, Sept. 10, 2014 announced the start of air raids on Syria. Another country full of brown people. And in case anyone thinks this is an anti-Islamist issue, understand, Syria is largely Eastern Orthodox. That’s Christian, just like most of mainstream America.
I have seen so many memes, posts, articles even books centered on the idea that if we did away with religion we would have less of these problems as if somehow believing in spiritual being and congregating to talk about it is the cause of war. I don’t believe it is. The cause is fear, dare I say; Terror? We have allowed terror to overcome us and by doing so terror and by association terrorists win. The President was right about one thing: The war on Terror is over, and Terror is victorious. And we did all this, because we were afraid. We, as Americans were willing to protect our liberty by giving it up.